Fred Phelps, the patriarch of the hate-fuelled anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), is reported to be close to death.
The 84-year-old American pastor and disbarred lawyer founded the Kansas-based church in 1955, but he only started targeting gay people in the early 90s.
On Friday, Phelps’ estranged son Nathan posted on Facebook that his father is “on the edge of death at Midland Hospice house in Topeka, Kansas.”
He also claimed that the pastor had been excommunicated from the church in August last year.
“I’m not sure how I feel about this,” commented Nathan Phelps, who left the church in 1980. “Terribly ironic that his devotion to his god ends this way. Destroyed by the monster he made.”
It remains unclear why the elderly Phelps may have been excommunicated by his own church.
Nathan Phelps added: “I feel sad for all the hurt he’s caused so many. I feel sad for those who will lose the grandfather and father they loved. And I’m bitterly angry that my family is blocking the family members who left from seeing him, and saying their good-byes.”
The WBC consists mainly of Phelps family members, but despite its small membership it has made global headlines over the years thanks to its outrageous hate-filled protests and statements.
Known for its virulently anti-gay campaigns asserting that “God hates fags”, WBC members have picketed at gay friendly events and even demonstrated at funerals of US soldiers who were killed in action.
In December last year, the church threatened to travel to South Africa to picket Nelson Mandela’s funeral. It previously described Cape Town as being “fag-infested” and said that “South Africa has become Sodom.”
In 2012, the Advocate magazine named Phelps one the 45 worst homophobes in the world.